Picture This! The Fairfax Pride Project

 

As they hold their new cameras, smiling and looking through the viewfinder, Sam Mack, a deacon at  Antioch Baptist Church, gives the middle-school youth instructions on how to take a good picture. “Keep your hand steady. Line up your subject. Make sure the light is behind you, and press firmly on the shutter release.”

 

Soon these rookie photographers will be dispatched into their neighborhood to take pictures of the supportive and discouraging elements they see in the community. Since images can speak louder than words, this assignment will give them a distinct voice and new authority on what lifts them up and pulls them down.

 

What will they see? How will they make sense of it? What will we learn from their point of view?

 

These questions and others will create the dialog the Fairfax Inter-Organizational Network desires as it launches its summer-long, intergenerational, community-building project, “The Fairfax Pride Quilting Project.”

 

Besides uncovering how young people see and experience their surroundings, the goals of the project are to empower two populations; youth and senior citizens, strengthen relationships between churches in the Fairfax neighborhood, and create positive interactions between church parishioners and Fairfax residents.

 

Collecting neighborhood snapshots is the first phase of the project. Volunteers recruited from area churches and organizations will assist the youth in forming thoughtful reflections and having critical discussions about the photos by being both sounding board and shepherd to the young people in their midst.

 

In a recent orientation, volunteers were encouraged to “Ask good questions and just listen.”

 

Just listening can be tough; especially when you are a seasoned senior who has experienced a full life. But these volunteers trust the guidance they are being given and want to give the youth a safe space to talk that they are often lacking.

 

Harry Winfield, a retiree who has lived in the Fairfax neighborhood for over 50 years, says, “This is why I stayed in the neighborhood. I’ll treat these kids like they were my own.”

 

From the meaningful exchanges that are sure to take place will, themes about the neighborhood will emerge.

 

These themes, along with the pictures, ironed onto fabric blocks, will be the raw materials for quilts, which is the second phase of the project. Experienced quilters from four area churches, Antioch Baptist Church, Emmanuel Baptist Church, St. James Baptist Church, and Liberty Hill Baptist Church will teach the youth their craft, and residents that use Senior Outreach Services will provide an oral history of the Fairfax neighborhood to add richness and dimension to the quilt themes.

 

Side by side, youth and seniors will create something together that will tell their stories and connect them to each other and the community.

 

Quilting sessions will occur three times a week at Antioch Baptist Church, and at the end of summer, the quilts will be on display at a community event where participants will share about their experience.

 

Want to learn more? Follow the progress of the Fairfax Pride Quilting Project here on Neighborhood Connections’ website for ongoing stories and insights.

 

- written by Christine Lee, a writer from Cleveland’s Near West Side

 

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